Two of Jess Franco's films previously released early on by Anchor Bay Entertainment get a nice facelift courtesy of Blue Underground. Definitely lighter fare, and considerably more accessible than a lot of his better known films, Two Undercover Angels and Kiss Me Monster are never the less quite enjoyable for the fun little slices of spy/pop movie making that they are. These aren't deep films by any stretch and they lack some of the personality that the director's better known films are both renowned and just as often despised for, but make no mistake, both of these movies still have the 'Franco touch' all over them.
Two Undercover Angels:
Alternately known as Sadisterotica, the film follows the exploits of Diana (Janine Reynaud of Succubus) and Regina (Rosanna Yanni who starred alongside Spanish horror superstar Paul Naschy in The Hunchback Of The Morgue), two female detective who operate collectively as 'Red Lips.' When the movie begins they're skulking around and going under cover to figure out who is abducting go-go dancers and why, in hopes of saving them from what is sure to be a horrible fate. The cops prove useless here, and it's obvious that only these two hot chicks are capable of solving the mystery.
Some quick and rather uninspired detective work soon leads to the narrowing down of the culprit to two men – a painter named Klaus (Adrian Hoven who shows up in a couple of Fassbinder films including Fear Of Fear) and the mysterious man known only as Morpho (Michel Lemoine of Seven Women For Satan). The girls rush into action to figure out who is behind all of this madness and bring him to justice, but will they save the dancers in time or end up imprisoned themselves?
A fantastic example of the late sixties 'go go culture' and a prime piece of mindless pop entertainment, Two Undercover Angels isn't particularly heavy but it is quickly paced well shot fun. No shortage of scantily clad and/or naked ladies add some unusually innocent sexiness to the proceedings while the be-bopping soundtrack keeps it all moving along to a fun, campy beat. Very much a product of its time, the movie alternates between Danger! Diabolik style thrills and psychedelic swirliness and style and comes up a winner thanks to an enjoyable cast and plenty of keen visuals.
Franco's use of color in the film is very strong. Here, even more so than in other comic book inspired films such as Sadomania and of interest to fans of sixties camp will be the hues present in the wardrobes of the two leads and much of the art deco/retro style furniture seen throughout the sets that the film was shot on. It's a fun time capsule of a film, one made likely for more commercial than artistic reasons, but that hardly diminishes the appeal of the go-go dancing hotties and completely fun storyline that Franco has provided us here.
Kiss Me Monster:
While Two Undercover Angels was fast paced, exciting and completely kooky, unfortunately the follow up film shot the same year just isn't as fresh or enjoyable, though it's hardly a waste of time for fans of the director or the two female leads who reprise their roles from the earlier movie for this second attempt.
Following up after the events of the first movie, we find Diana and Regina working as strippers and sharing an apartment together. Unfortunately they are disturbed from an evenings entertainment when a man stumbles to their door with a knife in his back. Before he drops over dead, he manages to give them the message he was trying to deliver before the attempt was made on his life, and before you know it, they're off to an island where they get involved with a mad scientist.
Short on plot or logic for that matter, Kiss Me Monster tries more for laughs than for suspense and the problem with that is that the humor isn't particularly effective. Thankfully, the film is slick enough and pretty enough that it's not worth getting upset over. Franco didn't design Kiss Me Monster as a serious film, he designed it as fun, slightly sexy, pop art entertainment and taken as nothing more than that it works fine, just like the movie that came before it. Once again we get some great sixties mod sets, funky, colorful fashions and two gorgeous girls to look at and this time around Franco even throw in a mad scientist and a creepy old island castle to spice things up a bit. It's just a shame that the humor wasn't toned down a little as it does hurt the film a little when the jokes fly at you as ineffectively as they do here.
What Kiss Me Monster does get right is a few interesting set pieces. The horror movie elements that Franco is most associated with are more prevalent here than in the movie that came before it, even if that film is the better made of the pair.
Blue Underground has re-mastered both films and presents them here in rather good 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen transfers that, as was also the case with their recent Succubus re-release, trump their Anchor Bay predecessors from a few years back. Improved colors, a cleaner and more detailed image and better black levels ensure that although there is some grain and moderate print damage from time to time, the picture looks good. Skin tones look lifelike and natural, background detail is solid, and while there is some edge enhancement present in spots and a natural softness to a few scenes, both films look better than they have before.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound mixes on both films are fine. The jazzy scores bounce through the front channel nicely but don't over power the dialogue in the films, and they always stay very clear. There are no problems with hiss or distortion at all, everything sounds very nice and very clean and even a little bit robust in these mixes, which was surprising considering the low budget origins and age of the films.
The main extras in this two disc set come in the form of two interviews with the director, Jess Franco himself, one on each disc. The first interview, The Case Of The Red Lips on the Two Undercover Angels disc covers where he came up with the idea for the film and how he went about getting the production actually moving from what started off as an idea into what eventually became a full fledged feature film. It's a reasonably interesting discussion, though not nearly as good as the interview on the second disc, Jess' Tangents which is, as the title states, basically Franco ranting about many of the difficulties he's had to endure throughout his career. He talks trash about the Franco regime he had to work under, about censorship issues he's had to deal with, about his work being labeled by some as nothing more than pornography and more. This is a great piece, it shows an angrier side of Franco and a more passionate side of him than we see in the first interview, and it's obvious that these issues are very personal to him.
Each of the two discs in the set also includes the trailer for its respective feature in addition to menus and chapter stops.
While there's no doubt that Franco has made many better films in his career, these two are still entertaining little comic book style adventures with some mild sleazy thrills to offer fans of the director's work – they work really well as simple, pop entertainment. Blue Underground's presentation is as good as you'd expect it to be and the Red Lips Double Feature: Two Undercover Angels and Kiss Me Monster comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.